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The Marksman

One of the best thing said about Liam Neeson is he’s dependable. Even if one of his films might not be the greatest, you know he will give the best performance he can. His stoic presence has elevated the most substandard material. His firm delivery of dialogue and his slinky moves in many action films have seen his career surge in recent years. ‘The Marksman’ is more of the same. That’s not much of a negative, as his latest action flick delivers the goods with Neeson’s usual steely gaze working overtime.

Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is a rancher patrolling the Arizona border. Although still grieving the recent death of his wife, he continues to go about his job with expert proficiency. His skills come in handy when he meets young Mexican boy Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba). Fleeing a cartel of assassins who have followed him to the U.S., Maurico desperately needs help. Stepping in to protect the boy, Hanson sets plans in motion to defeat those daring to cross his well-trodden path.

‘The Marksman’ offers Neeson a rare chance in stepping out of his comfort zone. His character isn’t one you can warm to, with his embittered view of life affecting his judgement. Hanson is a man who makes mistakes but Maurico’s presence potentially softens his hard edge. Neeson does a fine job in conveying his character’s world-weary views, making the predictable story engaging. His co-stars with somewhat under-written roles try to rise above the clunky script.

Robert Lorenz directs ‘The Marksman’ with a good eye for action. What he lacks in developing characters, he gains in moving the story along and making the most of the gritty stunt-work. The cinematography exposes Arizona’s dusty plains, almost playing like an urban Western. There’s not more that can be said with ‘The Marksman’ not offering much except for Neeson’s performance and explosive set-pieces.

A mid-range offering in his film catalogue, ‘The Marksman’ is a serviceable Liam Neeson starrer. If you don’t go into it expecting much then you won’t be disappointed. It thrills in the right places and does the job with Neeson’s reliability in delivering a diverting movie intact.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENTLY SCREENING IN CINEMAS.

Unsane

Psychological horror films are usually the most interesting. Buckets of blood and gore aren’t what usually makes the genre memorable, it’s the atmosphere it generates. Viewers remember the tension they felt when seeing these, along with the characters. Adding psychology into the mix has a way of keeping audiences on their toes wondering if what they’re seeing is genuine. Steven Soderbergh directs ‘Unsane’ with this in mind. With his usual filmic flair, Soderbergh delivers thought-provoking thrills amidst the film’s gloomy corridors.

Sawyer (Claire Foy) is a troubled young woman desperate to get away from a stalker, David (Joshua Leonard). Arranging to see a counsellor, she inadvertently signs a form which sends her to a psychiatric hospital. Meeting another patient, Nate (Jay Pharaoh), she learns the hospital runs an insurance scam by tricking people into voluntarily entering the institution. Sawyer has more important things in mind when she sees her stalker at the hospital. How this is possible as well as escaping her hellish predicament finds Sawyer caught in an emotional quagmire.

Steven Soderbergh sure knows how to switch professional gears. ‘Unsane’ sees him go down the B Movie horror route after a string of dramas. It’s a fun ride whilst still maintaining his attention to detail and making his characters fascinating to watch. Whilst ‘Unsane’ has a few leaps of logic making it rather implausible, the added layer of the insurance scam sub-plot keeps it grounded. In some ways the scam seems far more horrifying than Sawyer’s stalker, so outrageous are its affects and intents.

‘Unsane’ was shot using IPhone technology which adds a sense of genuine claustrophobia. The film’s hazy look effectively mirrors Sawyer’s dazed mind, making scenes more atmospheric. Foy is the best of the ensemble cast as her heroine battles against the twin evils of her stalker and the crooked establishment.

Although Soderbergh does drama and action well, it’s refreshing seeing him handle the horror genre. Apart from a few ridiculous plot developments, he generally succeeds in making it an arresting experience. Hopefully he’ll make another as ‘Unsane’ shows how the treatment can sometimes be worse than the disease.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME.